In 2016 Will The Force of History Awaken Volusia County?

The advent of the new Star Wars movie, The Force Awakens has created a stir in the imaginations of many who grew up in this series on the screen about a conflict of galactic proportions. I couldn’t help but find this story conjuring up pondering thoughts of parallel struggles and monumental dreams in my mind as it must have done too many. Great stories and even some television series at times have done the same.
One that comes quickly to mind is Star Trek. I recall how that series introduced innovative use of communicative devices, like the communicator, that eventually became today’s cell phones. Various episodes of the series dealt with many social issues and political challenges of the times. It was inspiring how the world depicted had overcome so many of those problems plaguing the people of Earth.
That same kind of futuristic view of life was sometimes employed by newspapers to make predictions of life in the future. It’s interesting to see how some of those depictions played out. So in the same vein, I’d like to attempt to do capture some of the futuristic hope of what we all enjoyed in Star Trek and Star Wars to predict what life might be like in Volusia County 20-50 years from now.
In the future, Volusian’s as well as most Floridians will have realized the untapped value of their greatest age-old draw – tourism. Following the Great Recession of the late ‘90s, which lasted well into the 21st Century the diminished economy had the vast majority of people, especially businesses looking for enterprises that were sustainable and durable to the slow recovering economy. Many of them rediscovered how earlier Floridians used the natural assets of the state to make money in non-consumptive ways. With its’ abundant water, various sport and recreational activities became lucrative business opportunities. Kayaking, sail boating, houseboats, rentals and various forms of guide and self-use businesses based on water use became new industries for many. With these, related supply and commercial service oriented businesses sprang up.
People studied how Florida’s early 19th Century tourism industry 1186250_537053729697775_1025256223_ntapped into all sorts of natural resources that Volusia County was blessed with. Bicycle trails, hiking trails, campgrounds, wildlife preserves, parks, historic sites, and ways to tap into their use brought about a surge in entrepreneurship. Visionary municipal leaders seized upon the opportunity for change these new businesses were suggesting and in turn changed zoning and long-range growth plans to incorporate all of them to encourage eco-tourism. Marinas and other water use increased. A resurgence of river tour travel also sprang from the initial river tour and dinner cruise businesses that used the St. Johns River.
IMG_3491The SunRail system was expanded to reach not only locations in the Metro-Orlando area but also to locations along the east coast and far north into Volusia County along the historic railroad grade still in West Volusia County. The city of DeLand became the Winter Park of Volusia County and many other communities saw growth and found ways to capitalize on the visitors the rail brought them. Operation of the rail line to weekends brought massive shifts in recreational trips and ridership that surpassed all previous projections. People were using the rail to reach distant areas for day trips and extended stays. Even the once struggling city of Deltona, long plagued with a lack of commercial infrastructure saw experienced a boom in recreational oriented commerce. A network of walking and bicycling trails connected all parts of the community to the County-wide trail system and to the rail line. Various businesses such as restaurants, sports shops, inns and bed & breakfast services grew up with the SunRail line and local recreational trail connections linked to it. The tiny hamlet of Enterprise became a cultural arts and history preservation attraction with huge festivals and humanities events. DeBary linked to the Spring to Spring Trail system and the DeBary Mansion Historic Site became a magnet for historic public awareness events much like Enterprise.
Volusia County saw tremendous increases in tourism and outdoor recreational use from residents and visitors from outside the County and State. As more industries sprang up that serviced the natural assets of the County the more recognition and emphasis there also grew for its farm to table food businesses and industries. The value of local markets and non-vehicular travel created a healthier population that supported sustainable resource use that also helped preserve the natural appeal of Volusia County. This in turn fed even greater advertising and visitor use bringing more opportunity for a better standard of living for residents of Volusia County. The political polarity that once existed between East and West Volusia County disappeared as entities on both sides of the County joined in partnership to enhance and encourage use of one another’s attractions and assets.
All of these things came about because people used the resources HBP River Viewthat they had and their own ingenuity to work together and achieve great things. Does this sound as far-fetched as a bunch of rebels taking on a mammoth Death Star or visionaries pursuing a dream of a better world? I have to admit I have not yet seen the new movie but everybody knows the ‘good guys’ win so what are we waiting for?
The future is what we make it.

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